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Why We Need Our Own Schools
Sometimes a point of discussion, among our people in areas where Christian high school education is not available, is, “what school then must be chosen?” There are sometimes public schools in the neighborhood which still maintain some strictness in discipline and where the work sphere does not seem too bad—schools which are considered by many to be neutral, without the dangers of false religion. It is indeed true, that students sometimes are exposed to very dangerous doctrinal instruction at Christian schools which do not believe that our children also must be born again and that a powerful, irresistible work of the Holy Spirit must be performed in them. Such superficial Christianity, in which souls are misled and are deceived for eternity, is very dangerous indeed. We all have a deceitful heart and our corrupt nature can easily be attracted by an optimistic, but unrealistic and deceitful conception of the state of those who live under the ministration of the covenant of grace. We like to possess something, to be something, instead of being set aside and placed outside, which is proclaimed in the teaching of the truth as it is re-vealed in God’s testimony. We would like to have something put in our hands rather than to be stripped, discovered, and revealed as an enemy of free grace.
But also for our young people, for our students, it is necessary that they come to know who and what they really are— sinners. For only then will a Savior for lost sinners become necessary, suitable and precious to them. Therefore, seeing all these dangers, it is understandable that many say, “I would rather send my children to the public school than to expose them to the influence and dangerous teaching of false doctrine.” But one thing we also must not forget, that the public schools are not really neutral at all, but are places where our youth are exposed to many dangers. There we find the humanistic approach, sometimes also atheism; there they are exposed to the dangers of being influenced by the worldy lifestyle of fellow students. This dilemma is not new. Also in the history of establishing our own schools in the Netherlands you see parents, and sometimes office-bearers, wrestling with this question: To what school must I send my children?
It is good also today, to listen to the voices of the past and learn what our forefathers advised or recommended.
What was the situation in about 1920 in our young denomination in the Netherlands? There was a great variety of opinions in respect to the necessity or desirability of having our own schools. There were also different views of “de openbare” (the public school):
• There were some who preferred to make use of existing Christian schools, although with some or many objections and concerns.
• There was quite a small group who kept their children at home, probably also partly because children had to be vaccinated, according to the law, when being sent to school.
• There was a large group which preferred public education, doing so with negative motives: “Better public, neutral instruction than a corrupt, false doctrine.” We must view this opinion in the light of the strong aversion to Dr. Kuyper’s theology.
One of the leaders in our churches, Rev. G.H. Kersten, had found, at cost to himself, when he was a young teacher at such a Christian school, what this doctrine meant and how great the enmity was against those who did not agree with it. It was the poisonous teaching of presumptive regeneration to which he objected at that school. Children of the covenant had to be considered as being born again until they revealed the opposite in their lives. And that was a doctrine which the young Kersten could not accept and which he felt obliged to attack, although it meant he had to leave that teaching position. In this light we can understand that many parents dared not entrust their children unto such Christian schools. I hope that also today we may see the essential difference between what we believe that our children have to be taught, and those superficial and dangerous, soul-misleading ideas wherein young children are told that they all are sheep of the Lord Jesus.
• But there were also parents who were very emphatic in their choice of public education. In this group, we see a denial of parental responsibility, a defense of unbiblical passivity and an erroneous view of God’s decrees. These say: “If God wants to convert a child, then He will certainly do it, and Christian education is not needed for that.” It is clear that this last view is totally irre-sponsible and unbiblical. God calls us to use the means of grace—also in the teaching of our children.
But yet in some places was a growing awareness of the need for sound Christian education. These were parents who realized that sending their children to public schools was irreconcilable to their baptismal promise.
In the Netherlands the first school societies were started already in about 1905. A few years later the first school of their own was opened. It was mainly through the efforts of Rev. Kersten who forcefully promoted this development, although this did not take place without resistance from those who were not convinced of the necessity of it. But Rev. Kersten refuted openly and boldly those who tried to defend the public school system, as if it would be really neutral and therefore harmless to the youth. He said, “Oh, grievous sadness which wounds us, when we see that the lie seems to prevail and draws our youth away from the church and throws them into the arms of unbelief.” And then he says powerfully, “No, that lie must be put away from out of our government buildings and must be banned from the schools, those cursed neutral schools which spiritually pollute our children.” And his words had effect; societies and work groups were formed in several places; activities were performed which led to their having their own schools.
Also in North America we find there was a powerful promoter of “truly Reformed Christian schools.” It was Rev. N.H. Beversluis, the pastor of the Paterson congregation. We can find his view in his school address, given in April, 1909, in Grand Rapids, when they established a Christian school there. His Scriptural basis for this address was from Ephesians 6:4, “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
First he asked, “To whom do your children belong?” The Word of God provides the answer in Psalm 127, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward.” And then he stated, “our children are the Lord’s; they belong to Him. He has a sovereign right to us and our children. And we have to respect this sovereign divine right, also in the matter of upbringing and education.” Then he asked the parents in what educational environment their children live. Is it in a place where that which they hear and see, and that which is done conflicts with your promise made before God? He concludes this very appropriate and instructive address with the appeal: “That when a congregation which confesses these principles founds its own school, each member of such a congregation ought to enroll his children, by virtue of his baptismal promise. We also should support such a school financially and above all prayerfully asking God’s gracious forgiveness for all human faults and sins, and also asking for His wisdom, help and strength, and His favor, so that God’s blessing may rest upon that which may be done according to God’s Holy Word.”
We feel the love to the cause of true Christian education in this address spoken by one who as a former teacher knew experientially what it means to have children entrusted unto his care. When in about 1920 financial equalization was offered for public and private education in the Netherlands by the acceptance of a new law in government, circumstances changed dramatically and the possibility of founding our own schools was considerably enlarged. Rev. Kersten, who undoubtedly had significant organizational talents, immediately took advantage of those new opportunities. But it also appears that there were still many in our denomination who did not see the necessity of it, so instead, resisted it.
Also Rev. Kersten used his school addresses held at the dedication of new schools, etc, to defend his Biblically founded endeavors. He said, when speaking about the question of where to send our children, “Not to public school. For there the praises of God may not be told.” And when some said, “Better no religion than a false religion,” he said, “But that is not true. The public school is not neutral. See the books they read, and look at the instruction in biology and history. At the public school they sow the seed of unbelief.”
Kersten even states that the turning away from God’s Word in national life is related to the fact that God’s Word was omitted in those public schools. He says, “Is that the result of the public school?” Exaggerated, some will say. But the devil said that too in Paradise—and you will not die. Our people eat the fruit of the public school and will die. He said that our young people of eighteen to twenty years of age show in catechism classes that they do not know much conceming the Word of God. Sometimes they will know something about Adam or Abraham, but do not ask them about Joshua or a king of Israel. We have a generation that cannot tell a very simple Bible story. And the results are seen. They cannot comprehend what they read in Christian books, but seek lighter reading. They are indifferent in church, and due to their ignorance, cannot follow a sermon. Just ask those who are converted unto God, or who are placed in the office of elder or deacon. Therefore we need Christian education in itself also for our ecclesiastical life, and the fact that many congregations are vacant makes Christian education even more indispensable. But if the education is to be steeped in the light of the Word, this makes having our own schools a necessity.
We cannot cooperate with the souldeceiving Reformed schools, which believe in Kuyper’s doctrine. For, we do not view our children as being born again, as people of God. To us they are dead in sins and trespasses, unless they are born again by the Holy Spirit. However, this I may not hide either, our children are holy, as we see in 1 Corin-thians 10. “Let the teachers present to them death and life as our fathers taught, which can lead to eternal salvation by the Holy Ghost,” Kersten says. But is Christian education possible? Don’t you place the teachers on fallow ground, at a cemetery? But thereof you read, “the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” Hear then the promise which makes it possible. “Turn ye unto Me — Suffer little children to come unto Me.”
So Rev. Kersten taught, encouraged, and urged his people to put their hand to the plough, and to do all that was possible. His efforts were crowned with rich results. Between 1920 and 1927 many schools were opened and in other places serious plans were advanced. But for responsible instruction we need also our own teachers. And so he encourages young men and women to study so that vacancies can be filled by those who know and love the truth.
Also in that respect Rev. Kersten gave of his best to support the teachers. He organized dogmatic courses for them with instructive discussions and advice. He realized how important it was that educational workers be grounded in the truth. Therefore he urged young people to read writers such as Thomas Boston, who was especially recommended. For that was the truth he believed to be Scriptural and God glorifying, wherein God receives all the honor of his sovereign work and which upholds our re-sponsibility to use the means of grace faithfully. Among those means, true Christian education must have a very important place. Although God only can give the increase, there must be a planting and watering, all in dependency upon God’s blessing. May this also be worked faithfully and zealously among us by the office-bearers, parents, and teachers—in God’s strength and with His wisdom, to the benefit and salvation of our dear children.
Rev. C. Vogelaar is pastor of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of St. Catharines, Ontario.
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 juni 1988
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van woensdag 1 juni 1988
The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's